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April 27, 2018
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HC agrees to mercy killing of elephantOrders medical examination to conclude if it would be cruel to keep it alive

The Madras High Court on Monday ordered that a temple elephant in Salem city named Rajeswari should be euthanised if a local government veterinarian certifies that it would be cruel to keep the ailing animal alive any longer.

It was made clear that the veterinarian should inspect the 42-year-old elephant at the Suguvaneswarar temple and issue a certificate within 48 hours.

‘Absurd methods’

Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice Abdul Quddhose passed the order on a public interest litigation petition filed by animal lover S. Muralidharan, who accused the government officials of adopting absurd methods such as attempting to make the elephant stand with the help of a crane and, in the process, causing more pain and agony to it.

Criteria for euthanasia

The judges ruled against requiring clearance from the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), as suggested by the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department counsel S. P. Maharajan. The AWBI had prescribed the criteria for mercy killing of animals. The judges reasoned that the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960 authorises government officials concerned to euthanise mortally injured, captive animals.

They, however, made it clear that the animal should be killed in a humane way with minimal pain and distress.

The Division Bench took note of a letter written by N.S. Manoharan, Forest Veterinary Officer, on March 21 in which he observed that the elephant, Rajeswari, suffered from “chronic deformity of forelimbs, fracture of left elbow joint, sore wounds on right lateral side, maggot wounds, age factor and related issues.”

The officer had noted that the elephant’s condition was “guarded to grave,” which was explained to the judges as meaning that Rajeswari was in between two medical conditions — recovery not predictable and imminent death.